Posted in Books, Movies

The Lunar Chronicles Movie?

Cinder and its successors in The Lunar Chronicles have been a breakthrough in the last few years in the world of Young Adult fiction. Dystopian novels have been dominating the genre over the last ten years, but Cinder gives them all a run for their money. The books tackle race, mental illness, physical disabilities and differences, what it is to be human, and the laws of man and alien. A lot of YA books have been getting film adaptions, with varying degrees of success, including the very successful Hunger Games and the flop Divergent movies. Marissa Meyer, series author, has addressed movie rumors by saying that she no longer holds the movie rights, and that there is a script in the works. If done right, a Cinder movie could be a breakthrough for the genre, but casting could make or break the movie.

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For Cinder protagonist Linh Cinder, producers or studios may definitely attempt to white-wash the role. Meyer has specified that Cinder has Asian features or is mixed-race, with dark hair and eyes. But, since she is not outright identified as Asian in the books, it wouldn’t surprise me if they cast a white woman in this role. I have no idea who could play this complicated and nuanced character, but I hope they cast her properly, as a person of color. Her love interest, Kai, is specified as Asian, and must be played by an Asian actor, but that hasn’t stopped LA before.

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All of the protagonists are interesting, complicated and full of life. The role of Scarlet Benoit could go to a lot of actresses, since there are a lot of white redheads out there. If they’re casting for level of fame, the obvious choice is Emma Stone, who could definitely play younger, though I’ve never heard her do an accent. I also like Holland Roden of Teen Wolf fame, or maybe Bella Thorne. Scarlet would be a challenging role, she has a lot of complicated emotional baggage and her life only gets more complicated as the series continues. I don’t have any preferences for Cress, although I think Evanna Lynch could be the right choice. She plays innocent well, and she looks like Cress.

In general, I don’t have a lot of preferences for this movie. I think, if it happens, it will be a big-budget franchise, and there’s a lot at stake. My only real concern is casting characters of color, specifically Winter and Cinder, who are specified as being POC. In terms of the male roles, there isn’t huge room for error. All of the series’ characters are fleshed out, but the female characters are more complex than Hollywood usually goes for. I think that this could be a step in the right direction, assuming no one screws up.

Posted in Books

Thoughts on “The Fault in Our Stars”

While I am certainly late to the cinematic party in terms of writing about The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation, released to the general public more than a month ago, I HAVE A GOOD REASON.

                                                Augustus Waters John Green animated GIF

I have been a nerdfighter since 2010, and I wanted to see the film with my oldest friend, the one who introduced me to the world of Nerdfightaria, the books of John Green, and Brotherhood 2.0. So, yesterday, Tuesday, July 15th, she and I went to go see the movie. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I had low expectations of the film initially. I love the book immensely. I own two copies of the book, one of which is a signed from the first printing, a button, and two tFiOS themed tee shirts. I have read the book at least five times, and I believe it to be frankly genius. I have not been impressed with many recent adaptations of books I’ve loved, and I was underwhelmed by the trailer, so I tried not to get too excited, though I did bring a plastic bag of tissues just in case.

Frankly, I was favorably impressed. The adaption was extremely faithful, taking whole passages from the novel without sounding like they were shoehorned in. Like the novel, it has a really poignant tonal quality, a sad, sardonic kind of humor. Book purists will be very pleased, most of the exchanges between Gus and Hazel are straight from the book, as are all of Van Houten’s and Isaac’s lines. The film is well-made, in some instances movies that heavily quote the books they are based on come across poorly, but tFiOS is an utter triumph.

The cast is a sweeping success, Laura Dern as Frannie Lancaster (Hazel’s mother) is a standout. In such a small cast, there are several big winners. Aside from Dern’s flawless performance, Mike Birbiligia (Patrick, support group leader) is delightful, Nat Wolff is perfect in all senses of the word, and Willem Dafoe is phenomenal. While underutilized in such a tight movie, Birbiglia’s scenes manage to convey a lot of importance for the cancer culture Green wrote about at length in the book. Willem Dafoe does not play the reclusive Peter Van Houtan, his is Van Houtan. Every mannerism, line and facial expression seems to spring straight from the book, he’s simply brilliant. Nat Wolff, recently confirmed to also be starring in an adaption of Green’s novel Paper Towns, is a breath of fresh air. The rapport between his character, Isaac, and Augustus is perfect, and, like Van Houten, most of his lines are also from the book. The scene depicting The Night of the Broken Trophies is a shining moment for Wolff. He is also, in this writer’s opinion, pretty darn cute. Honestly, in moments he was far more appealing than Augustus.

The performances of the two lead actors are overshadowed by the brilliance of the rest of the cast, but Augustus’s eyebrows deserve a film of their own. At times Gus does gets a bit irritating, his vanity and pretentiousness comes across a little more grating on film than on the page. Shailene Woodley looks right for Hazel, she has this girl next door look about her, in the way she talks and moves. Both Elgort and Woodley are aesthetically pleasing and have a great presence onscreen, and their love is magical. Their ability to transition from playing siblings (in another book to movie adaption, Divergent) to lovers is impressive.

As is to be expected, some things that were important in the book that were left out of the movie, including the humanization of Gus’ family. We barely see his mother and father, and his sisters and nephews are left out entirely. Though the movie does an impressive job showing us their story, it fails to grasp some of the complexities of the book. Green has spoken several times about how the book chronicles the journey from strength to weakness, and we do see Gus’ strength. We see Hazel struggle to keep up, but there is none of the book’s foreshadowing of his recurrence, and eight days (or infinity) before Gus dies, he looks much the same as before, though in a wheelchair. There is one really great scene, when he calls Hazel from the gas station, when Elgort really shows us Gus’ frustration, his hatred for his sickness. But we don’t see him look too sickly, and though Hazel promises not to sugar coat their love story, some parts are left out entirely. The relationship between Augustus and his dead ex-girlfriend Caroline is left out from the film, a story which really highlighted the realities of the disease.

                          The Fault In Our Stars animated GIF 

The Anne Frank house scene, while meaningful, is not quite as touching as in the book, and also a bit weird. I know it’s a movie, but one simply does not clap when strangers, even disabled, beautiful strangers, make out. Even just watching other people kiss is weird. Also, strange French lady in the background, kissing in the Anne Frank house is not “cute.” I was talking to my friend about how that scene made us uncomfortable in the book, mostly because of the seriousness of the location. The Anne Frank house is essentially a Holocaust museum, and kissing at one of those would be considered a bit disrespectful. It just rubbed us the wrong way a bit. But we’re Jewish, and John Green is not, so we would obviously have different perspectives.

                                        Ansel Elgort Shailene Woodley animated GIF 

This movie further proves that the truth resists simplicity, as the movie is an impressive (and profitable) effort, receiving critical acclaim and raking in more than 237 million dollars, though it does not reach quite the brilliance of the book.

Green, Elgort, Wolff and Woodley did a series of very delightful interviews in anticipation of the film, which I would suggest you watch, purely because they are adorable and funny. There are some links below, as well as a link to the last post I did on John Green.

https://chamberofspoilers.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/12-essential-john-green-gifs/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJpaoELLhAM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZg1KFLJiaE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11wavAHn4cs

Posted in Movies

REWIND: Superman: The Movie (1978)

I’ve always loved super hero movies, mostly for the moral certainty that they provide. While our world is complicated, full of shades of grey morality-wise, super hero movies typically have an Evil Villain and a Great Hero. Our Hero does the Right Thing, and stops the Villain from his antagonistic actions, usually against innocent people and cute little girls. Do not take from any of this that I dislike these movies. I kinda resent the fact that Wonder Woman hasn’t had her own screen time since the late seventies, and we’ve had approximately seven billion Batman, Spiderman and Superman reboots since, plus the latest developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I love super hero movies. So I thought I’d watch an oldie but a goody, and I pulled out the original Superman movie, starring Christopher Reeve.

Here we go.

Zod & Co being arraigned.
Zod & Co being arraigned.

Firstly, after approximately seven minutes of credits, our first look at Zod & Co. has them imprisoned by weird magnetic Hula-Hoops? The criminal prosecutor (who happens to be Jor-El) also sounds a bit British, which has me wondering if that’s just how Kryptonians sound, or if it’s an affectation.

Honestly, aside from possibly starving to death (which obviously can’t happen, they’re basically invulnerable) this seems like a lame punishment. They’re basically just bored and trapped. Unless they all actually hate each other and an eternity in space would just be interminably awkward. Sentence for plotting to overthrow the government, being an unreasonable brute, hating children and being a feminist: trapped through the looking glass.

“I will abide by the council’s decision. Neither my wife nor I will leave Kyrpton.”

Annoyed Eye Roll animated GIF

Annnnd you all see the loophole here, he didn’t promise not to evacuate his newborn son.

The council forgot that tiny loophole.

This whole thing looks very child-safe, they definitely baby-proofed their rocket.

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Doctor Who Karen Gillan animated GIF

Parenting! Everyone complained about how long the Krypton introductory sequence took in Man of Steel, but in this movie it takes over twenty minutes for the planet to explode. Both movies, incidentally, have the same running time, 143 minutes.

Martha: How I've prayed for a child!
Martha: How I’ve prayed for a child!
Jonathan: Hand me a rag?
Jonathan: Hand me a rag?

 

 

 

 

 

This exchange where Martha thanks God for finally sending her a baby (although not the traditional way) and Jonathan deflects is much funnier now than when I was ten. Of course, it is swiftly followed by some heart attack foreshadowing.

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Then, off to build the Fortress of Solitude! Which is apparently located in the polar bear exhibit at the Chicago Zoo.

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Encountering the Jor-Elgram, Clark proceeds to A Brief Study of the Universe by Dad, which somehow takes only twelve years? These pass in half a minute.

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Look at that face!
So, while many disparaged Man of Steel for too much exposition, this movie has 45 minutes of Krypton, Kansas, and Kal-El education before we actually get to Metropolis and The Daily Planet. We finally meet the delightfully awkward adult Clark Kent, and the apparently spelling impaired Lois Lane, and he is immediately interesting to her, which is adorable and funny.
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We see a bit of Lex Luthor and his comic relief (or, the other function they serve, inept side-kicks), but only enough to ascertain that his crime du jour will be real-estate related, and he has daddy issues.

 

Then, Lois blows off Clark to do a journalist thing because she’s super career driven, and gets into a bit of an accident with a helicopter, giving Superman the perfect opportunity to save her.

 

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Of course, she promptly faints, having just falling out of a helicopter and being saved by a flying man in quick succession.  We get a cool scene where Superman adds another power to his list: quip machine. He stops a criminal climbing up the side of a glass building, which, in retrospect, seems pretty easy to catch. He foils a few more petty crimes, and saves a cat from a tree. He hands the ugly cat off to its young, pigtailed owner, who responds with the usual “Gee, thanks mister.” And he flies off. The girl is then slapped by her mother off-screen for “telling lies” about a big flying man. Hehe! Classic comedy with the domestic abuse.

He saves a few more broken flying things, then we cut to Lex Luthor and his minions swimming in the sewers.

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Gross.

Back to the romance of the century!

Superman invites himself over to Lois’ place, they talk, it’s adorably awkward on her end, for a change.

Lois: How big are you?
Lois: How big are you?

This, for the curious viewer, brings the total of dick jokes to two. Pretty subtle ones, but definitely dick jokes. Read into that what you will.

Lois and Clark go on a flying date, with a lot of meaningful looks and some Lois voice-over. She says her goodbyes to him in a daze, only to be awoken by loud knocking on her door. Clark is here to pick her up for a date!

Note the comic amount of locks on Lois' door.
Note the comic amount of locks on Lois’ door.

 

Meanwhile, Dumb, Dumb and Dumber, figure out Superman’s legendary weakness. Double L lures Superman down to his sewer hideout by pretending to be about to murder a ton of people. And then proceeds to explain his plan to murder a ton of people in an entirely different way.

 

Superman does not deal with minions. This look is all sass.
Superman does not deal with minions. This look is all sass.

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Lex tricks him into opening a lead box with Kryptonite in it, and throws him in the pool. You know, just to add insult to injury. Of course, before leaving Superman to drown, Lex makes a terrible pun. Lex’s minion (the female one) helps Superman get free, and he flies off to SAAAAVE THE DAY!

Bill Nye Bowtie animated GIF
He saves a bunch of school kids and somehow keeps the crust of the earth from falling in?
He also turns back time to save Lois’ life, and throws Lex and the accomplice who didn’t help him escape in prison. Then he does the usual flying in space with a smile ending, followed by ten minutes of credits. Fin.

While the new movie is good, and Henry Cavill is dreamy, there’s something to be said for the classics. I love the over-the-top villainy, the weird outfits, and every expression on Christopher Reeve’s face, ever. He is Superman.

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